'We Got Some Dudes!' - If Catholic Saints Played Football Part II: Defense
This is a continuation of a thought experiment where we think about the manly virtue of the Saints and wonder what it would look like to insert them into the sport of football. In part one of 'We Got Some Dudes!', the idea of a football roster composed of Saints was examined with an emphasis on the offense. Now, in part two we will consider which holy men based on their personality types, could have been great defensive players. We will look at each position with a brief rationale based on the prototype football player and the spiritual attributes of the Saint who would excel in that position as a personality type.
Defensive Linemen: St. Ambrose, St. Anthony of the Desert, St. Leo the Great, St. Ignatius of Antioch
The skills required to play defensive line vary. In general they have size but they are athletic and proportionate. They are tough and fast, disciplined up to a point but also ferocious. They have mastered technique and are excellent combatants with their hands. They are tenacious in their lateral pursuit and they never ever give up on a play. They know the game well enough to sniff out a screen and strip the ball when the situation demands it.
Playing as one unit, they control their own gap before they commit to pursuing the ball carrier. Communication skills are high as well since they may be on a stunt with each other or with a linebacker. These defensive line guys are often recluses or outcasts. They are not concerned with being likable or socially amenable. They live to do battle with the opponent and are at home in the mud.
Linebackers: St. Andrew, St. John the Baptist, Peter
Linebackers must have a versatile skill set. They are responsible for stopping the run, the pass, and everything in between. Some of the skills needed for linebackers are vision, fundamentals of tackling, speed, agility, aggression, tenacity, communication and leadership. The epitome of a middle linebacker in the traditional football mind is someone who is a monster, missing teeth with eyes bulging. We think of people like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Jack Lambert. They are borderline psychotic in their desire to inflict pain while at the same time drinking it up. Their uniforms are blood stained and torn. Outside backers have to run with skilled players more often so they are usually less run oriented and maybe smaller or less physical when compared to a middle linebacker. Combined as one unit, they must communicate at all times and this involves a physical communication in how they pursue the ball and which angles they take to the ball carrier.
On any given play they may attack the hole on an inside run, scrape to an outside run or stay disciplined and stay home for reverses or cutbacks. They each have to trust that the other is doing his gap control assignment. When it is a passing situation, they have to read that and come out of their initial run step to defend a zone or pick up a tight end, receiver or back out of the back field. Good linebackers know the game so well that they respond on the fly instinctively relying on muscle memory.
Defensive Backs: St. Damien of Molokai, St. Francis Xavier, St. John the Evangelist, St. Michael the Archangel
Defensive backs are arguably the best athletes on the field. They are responsible for stopping the pass and run support. Some of the skills needed for defensive backs are vision, fundamentals of open field tackling, speed, agility, intelligence, courage, and communication.
Both St. Damien of Molokai and St. Francis Xavaier went into hostile or dangerous lands. They traveled as missionaries and covered a lot of areas. Both saints were able to spread the Gospel message to those who needed to hear it. For St. Damien, those people were the lepers stuck on an island in a leper-colony in Hawaii. St. Damien became their priest and also their hero. He was not afraid to work for the people and he poured himself out day after day digging graves and trenches, building a chapel and houses, organizing liturgies and bandaging wounds. Eventually he gave his life completely when he contracted leprosy. St. Francis Xavier led an extensive mission into Asia including India, Japan and China. He was also the first missionary to venture into Borneo and the Maluka islands. These are both corners because they covered such a wide area as missionaries and they were tenacious to the end in spreading the Gospel in very difficult circumstances.
Our safeties are St. John the Evangelist and St. Michael the ArchAngel. What they have in common is their association with flying. St. John’s symbol is the eagle because when one reads his Gospel one is souring in the clouds. His lofty writing style and his deep and rich theology standout among the four Gospels. St. Michael not only has wings (at least in artistic interpretations) but he also is known as the most daunting warrior who drives the sword of truth through the heart of Satan, the ancient dragon. It’s a little unfair to add an angel to the roster but St. Michael would be the perfect defender and therefore the best free safety.
Head Coach: St. Junipero Serra
St. Junipero Serra, a Spanish Catholic priest and Franciscan missionary, had all the qualities of a good head coach. He was smart. As a young man he immersed himself in rigorous studies of logic, metaphysics, cosmology, and theology. He had the vision, he was fearless, he established and managed a complex system of missions at a time when communication and construction were still primitive. Through his determination and communication skills he was able to articulate his vision, his game-plan and lead men effectively.
If you think about the magnitude of the accomplishments of St. Junipero Serra you will be stunned by his success. He set up the first nine of 21 missions in California from San Diego to San francisco. For this reason he is called, ‘the Apostle of California’.
He racked up the W’s everywhere he went! To this day his missions still stand and his legacy is strong in spite of the naysayers. There are those Monday-morning quarterbacks who want to second guess his motives, methods and performance but the truth is he was a trailblazer, innovator and a holy man.
While this thought experiement focused on personality types that would excel in football, the truth is these men modeled for us a way toward perfection for both time in this world and eternity in the next. They taught us how to prepare for glory by selfless devotion to the Gospel message and dicipleship in Christ. The Great Command (to love God with their whole self and to love eachother as they loved themselves) became their single focus. For these laser-focused competitors, winning is everything because winning means, for them, participation in the beatific vision of the perpetual light of Christ in heaven.